Sustainable procurement

UW Campus in the fall


Waterloo has set strategic goals, embedded in the above, to build sustainable procurement into organizational strategy. This includes the following:

  • Evaluate life cycle cost and require sustainability disclosure from suppliers for all purchases over $100,000 by 2020
  • Establish baseline data and targets to improve the percent of campus-wide purchases that meet third-party standards for paper, electronic equipment, and cleaning supplies by 2018

To track progress, see Waterloo's annual Sustainability Report.

Supporting SDGs

 Responsible Consumption and Production


    The University of Waterloo is committed to operating the campus sustainably. This guide provides key information and resources to build awareness of sustainable procurement, to inform about the sustainable options available, and to empower staff and faculty to take sustainable actions in their own departments.

    Sustainable procurement is by no means easy. It requires a bit of rethinking the way things are typically bought, even questioning the decision to buy something at all. But it is rapidly emerging as an important tool for sustainability, both at Waterloo and around the world.

    Why sustainable procurement?

    Purchasing pictureAs a large organization, the University of Waterloo can use its purchasing power to encourage suppliers to provide more sustainable product offerings. Done well, sustainable procurement can support the following:

    • It can help make better purchasing decisions that factor in long-term operating costs and efficiency;
    • It reduces environmental impact within and beyond the campus;
    • It improves Waterloo’s corporate social responsibility throughout Waterloo’s supply chain;
    • It minimizes risk from engaging with suppliers who have poor environmental track records;
    • It decreases the likelihood of being confused by misleading claims;
    • It can help us rethink unnecessary purchases or shift to reusable/renewable/repairable options;

    How to start sustainable procurement

    So, how to do it? Every product and purchase is different, but the following are some top tips that will help make the most sustainable purchasing decision. The combinations of these strategies can be applied to almost all product purchases. The following pages outline some more specific resources and information for the campus to consider when making key product purchases (and more will be added over time!)

    Minimize unnecessary purchases

    Minimize purchases iconThe product that doesn’t need to be purchased has the lowest environmental footprint! Ensure that there are no pre-existing products or resources that can fill the need.

    Consider life-cycle costs

    Lifecycle cost iconUp-front purchase price is not the only cost to should consider. Costs for energy, waste, or consumables can sometimes cost more than the product itself, so consider the full cost when making a decision. The Sustainability Office has a guideline and tools for larger purchases.

    To lear more, visit the Life Cycle Costing Guidline developed by the University of Waterloo's Secretariat.

    Buy credibly certified products

    Buy certified productsLook for reputable Eco-logos for products that reduce environmental impact, issued by third-party suppliers. The topics below cover this in more detail.

    Buy circular

    Buy circular iconA circular economy is one that reuses materials and minimizes waste. Look for recycled content, durability and ability to be repaired, recyclable packaging, and take-back or reuse programs.

    Buy from green suppliers

    Buy green iconConsider supporting vendors and suppliers who are embedding sustainability in their own practices and supply chains. Note, this is done automatically for large purchases (>$100,000)!

    Learn more!